CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CNS) — Stay focused on God and be friends of Jesus and one another, Catholic communicators were told June 18 in Charlotte.
“May everything we do spring from the love of God,” Charlotte Bishop Peter J. Jugis said in his homily at St. Patrick Cathedral during the opening Mass of the 2014 Catholic Media Conference.
He welcomed the 200-plus reporters, editors, communication directors and others serving in Catholic media across the U.S. and Canada to the Diocese of Charlotte.
At the conference’s opening dinner, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, urged members of the Catholic media to “put on Christ!”
“We are not neutral on Christ and on the church; we are Catholics who look for the truth and embrace it,” he said. “We are in communion with Christ and the church and we call others to join us. … You who are the ambassadors of the good news of Jesus Christ are also those who reflect well how that good news is being heard.”
Bishop Jugis was the main celebrant of the Mass. Concelebrants included Archbishop Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications; and other priests who were in Charlotte for the June 18-20 media conference.
Charlotte’s bishop preached on the Gospel reading of the day from Chapter 6 of Matthew, in which Jesus says, “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. … When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
The same Gospel passage was read on Ash Wednesday, marking the start of the Lenten season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, Bishop Jugis noted. But Jesus’ words to pray, fast and give alms privately should have meaning beyond Lent, he said, because Catholics should participate in these penitential practices throughout the year.
The faithful must be aligned to God at all times, he said, and live “in a state of constant conversion.”
Followers of Christ should take to heart his words to seek first “the pure love of God,” otherwise all their actions are “self-referential,” Bishop Jugis said. “Being self-referential, we can expect no recompense from our Father.”
In his address, Archbishop Kurtz said the people of God have placed “a sacred trust” in the Catholic media. “People pay attention to what you say. They are listening. … They trust you to promote Christ and his church and to advance the teachings of the church accurately.”
Catholic media should resist what has been seen as the traditional journalistic stance of “pure neutrality,” he said, in favor of “belonging to Christ.” Archbishop Kurtz said Pope Francis conveyed this theme in his message for this year’s World Communications Day June 1.
The pope’s advice was twofold, he said, telling communicators that “as the world grows smaller and smaller, don’t let your heart shrink, and as the digital frontier picks up speed and gets more hectic, bring a sense of serenity and calm.”
The trust of Catholics is precious, Archbishop Kurtz said. Catholic media fulfill that trust when they report the news and provide commentaries with accuracy, transparency and “always with love for the ways of Christ and the teachings of the church,” he said.
“We cannot afford to sugarcoat the truth, but even bad news needs to be reported with love — as one in communion,” he added.
He said he believes the Catholic media as evangelizers will be called on in the years ahead to influence the digital frontier to move from “diatribe to dialogue.”
“Sadly, digital discourse” is often “full of diatribe,” he said, because people can offer their opinions in anonymity. The Catholic media must promote dialogue to build the faith up, not tear it down, he said.
He also called it ironic that people seem further apart from one another at the same time they have never had more interconnectivity via the Internet. One reason for that, he said, is people’s attention is divided, such as when they try to multitask — texting and monitoring email on a smartphone while having an in-person conversation.
The archbishop noted he has “put a foot or two into the digital frontier” with his blog, a Twitter account and a Facebook page. He has 9,000 followers on Twitter and about 4,000 on Facebook.
Archbishop Kurtz said he would welcome dialogue and feedback sessions among the Catholic media and the Catholic bishops, and sees them as “opportunities for us … to step back and ‘put on Christ'” in friendship and respect.
In Louisville, he finds listening sessions with people of the archdiocese quite beneficial. The Record, the archdiocesan newspaper, now has regular feedback sessions with an editorial board, made up of a dozen members who include priests, lay leaders, theologians and professional communicators.
He attends the meetings when he can, he said, and solicited the board’s feedback on topics to cover in his Charlotte keynote.
Archbishop Kurtz suggested bishops and Catholic media together “brainstorm ideas about how Catholic communicators can begin to transform the digital frontier.”
The annual gathering of members of the Catholic Press Association of the U.S. and Canada and the Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals was hosted by the Diocese of Charlotte and its news outlet, the Catholic News Herald.
Contributing to this story were Patricia L. Guilfoyle and Julie Asher.